What is a House Reef?

This is the term we give to reefs that lie in front of resorts, off the jetty or beach that can be accessed directly or by a short swim, usually not requiring a boat ride.

house reef and pier at komodo resort

Why we love House Reefs?

Unlike reefs that can only be access by boat, having a good house reef provides us with the option of getting into the water when ever we want to, rather than at some pre-arranged time. And means that we can spend as long in the water as we choose. Also, very often one can go for an evening or night time snorkel more easily on a house reef as it’s close, often sheltered in a bay,

Being close to the shore also provides stunning opportunities for photographers to get interesting split-shots. More about that here.

Wakatobi is one of Indonesia’s most beautiful snorkeling areas. The reefs here are in impeccable condition as very few boats/resorts have access to the area, which is a well managed marine park. The house reef offers stunning shallow water ideal for snorkeling. The resort staff will gladly give you a ride on a small boat if you want to explore a section of reef a little further away from the entry point, otherwise you can just bumble in, under the watchful gaze of the lookout staff. More than 400 fish and 700 coral species have been recorded on this house reef, pretty amazing really. Because visiting Wakatobi involves a 2.5 hour charter flight from Bali, you are unlikely to encounter many other people on this reef, which covers a huge expanse so one could spend days snorkeling only the house reef without getting bored. Turtles, crocodile fish, rays, leaf fishes and more await discovery.

aerial view of wakatobi resort

Misool Resort, located in southern Raja Ampat, is a private island resort, hidden in an otherwise uninhabited archipelago. The resort island boasts bright white beaches surrounded by stunning reef in warm turquoise water. The house reef here offers miles of pristine coral and great chances of seeing schooling jacks, turtles, octopus and large schools of bumphead parrot fish. There are also lots of baby black tip sharks to be found in the shallows. The famed “walking shark” can also often be spotted on the shallows on a night snorkel.Misool resort bungalow with baby sharks in the shallow water

Komodo Resort, located on a small island on the outskirts of Komodo National Park, has a beautiful house reef running along its beach. Accessible from the jetty (as not to trample the coral) or by small rib, this reef has brightly coloured hard corals in the shallows sloping gently onto a slightly deeper sandy area alive with schools of fish like snappers and jacks. The jetty itself has become a hub of marine life, offering shade and shelter for large schools of fish, and many crabs and shrimp. The sandy part of the reef is home to loads of various sea stars and rays. We have spotted many an eagle ray “flying” over this reef.

Split shot of Komodo resort and its house reef

Nunukan Island Resort, located on a tiny private island off the coast of Indonesian Borneo, has a 4KM long house reef along its shores. Accessable from the jetty or from small boats this reef starts in the very shallow water and leads all the way down to 40m. Here we always see turtles, often encounter sharks and various rays, and commonly see other interesting fish like leaf fish, loads of nudibranchs, octopus, various schools of brightly coloured fish and a wide array of healthy corals.

Aerial view of Nunukan Island and reef

Alami Alor is an intimate resort situated on the rocky shores of Alor Island, and has a stunning house reef directly in front of it. Accessible from the jetty or boat drop off, this reef is a treasure trove. We often see small schools of juvenile reef sharks in the mornings, and for the evenings entertainment we can watch Mandarin fish mating in the shallows. The time in between is filled with lively schools of fish, octopus, nudibranchs, eels, crabs, shrimps and more. Under the jetty we usually find huge schools of fish, and lots of juveniles like trumpet fish and bat fish looking for refuge.

Giant frogfish on jetty in Alor












You defiantly don’t have to be scuba diving to take photos underwater. In fact, a lot of the most widely used photography techniques take place in very shallow water where a mask and snorkel are the preferred respiratory gear by most professional underwater photographers. Check out this list of the five most widely used photo techniques that are probably easier than you thought. 

 1. Wide Angle

Pristine coral reef in Alor

When we’re snorkeling we should be thinking about ‘big picture’ sort of photos; reefscapes and larger marine life should be our main priority. You may want to capture the beautiful reef fish below, but the reality is that by the time you have managed to duck dive down to where they are, there is a very good chance they have gone into hiding. So, the best thing to do, include them in the overall shot. As snorkelers, we have a similar perspective as someone in an airplane looking down, and if you’ve ever tried to take a photo of a deer from an airplane—if you can spot one—it just doesn’t turn out very well. The larger landscape photos always turn out the best, which is why we typically use a wide angle lens for snorkeling photography. 

 2. Natural Light

snorkeler swimming and filming mola mola on the surface

As snorkelers, we have the benefit of being able to ditch cumbersome external flashes as we can harness the power of the sun to be our source of light. Divers need to use external flashes because the light from the sun drops off significantly as we go deeper, but lucky for us, all of our subjects are bathed in beautiful sunlight. That being said, we still need to use the custom white balance on our camera. We do this by calibrating it on our hand or a white slate at the depth of our subject and creating a sort of digital red filter which will bring out the beautiful colors of the reef. Or we can use the Fish Mode preset white balance that most cameras come with, this will do the very same thing. At least for me, the biggest benefit of using the sun as our light source in combination with a custom white balance, we can be much further away from our subjects and still get great colors. 

3. Reflections

Reef reflection in Komodo National Park

Taking advantage water’s natural reflective quality is a brilliant way to spice up any photo, even if you’re just taking a quick photo of your buddy. The best reflections will be found in still water with your subject being either on the surface or just below it, a meter at most. To capture the reflection, just make sure your camera has a slight upward angle. Easy as that!

4. Downward AnglesSnorkeler taking photos of coral reef in Alor

With the exception of reflections and anytime your subject is on the surface with you, most of your photos will be from an ‘aerial’ perspective. That being said, it’s always a good idea to keep horizon lines in your photo, and keep them straight. Physiologically we are programmed to look for horizon lines wherever we go as a point of reference, and when we can’t find one, in in photography,  it creates a feeling of unease. 

5. Half-Halfs

split shot of hard coral reef and raja ampat islands

Photos where half of the frame is above the water with the other half underwater is the easiest way to wow the viewer, and come show off your photography skills. While these are by no means difficult photos to take, we do need to have a couple things in mind. First, a larger dome port is best as this creates a larger surface area for us to balance the two worlds. Second, very shallow water—several centimeters to a meter—works best. Third, take a life jacket with you. This isn’t for personal flotation, but to help you balance yourself and camera. You’ll find pretty quick that when you lift your camera up to get that split shot your whole body will submerge making things very difficult. This is when resting on a life jacket comes in handy. And finally, to keep those pesky drops of water off your port, a little spit smeared around the glass or acrylic lens will do wonders!

Snorkel Venture team member Alex Lindbloom spent 5 years on a Liveaboard in Indonesia visiting some of the most remote and exciting sites on offer in the Asia-Pacific region. Check out his showreel of favourite locations, for more videos checkout our Snorkel Venture Youtube Channel.

One of our most popular snorkel trip routes is the Alor and Komodo trip in Indonesia.

Following on from the previous post, about the first part of the tour in Alor, this post will deal with the second part of the tour in Komodo.

Komodo Resort Island

After a superb week in Alor, we travel by plane via Kupang to Labuan Bajo, a small town on the western tip on Flores, a large island further west, and the jumping off point to the famous Komodo National Park. Here we will be met by our drivers and taken via the main resort office to the port where we embark on a 1h30min private boat trip to the island of Seyabur, and location of our next stop.

Arriving mid afternoon, we will settle into our amazing beachfront bungalows. These gorgeous bungalows have four-poster beds, mosquito nets, desks and bar fridges. (Soft drinks and snacks in the fridge are free of charge for in-room consumption). The ensuite bathrooms come complete with towels, shampoo and body wash. Each bungalow has a private balcony with bean bag and chairs, as well as a little deck with deck chairs and umbrellas for relaxing and sunbathing by the waters edge. Each bungalow also has extra towels for guests to take and use on the boats during the day.

Here we enjoy our meals in the dining area, where the menu includes Indonesian, Italian and other western style choices, and is served al la carte. Drinks can be enjoyed at the beach bar watching spectacular sunsets.

Komodo Resort Food

The long jetty runs over the stunning house reef. Here the corals are pristine and alive with schooling fish in huge numbers, passing eagle rays, moray eels and critters, and can be snorkeled at any time with surface boat support.

Our time here will be spent exploring some of the reefs that make Komodo one of the most well known marine parks in the world. Famed for it’s biodiversity, this area more than lives up to it’s reputation as home to the most species of coral and fish in the world.

Happy couple snorkeling a reef in Komodo

We will have private use of a large wooden double story boat. The roof deck has a sun shade and several bean bags for relaxing on, while the bottom bed has benches for sitting on and preparing for water entry from the back lowered deck. A large sturdy ladder makes for easy re-entry onto the boat. The boats have tea, coffee and drinking water and a small marine toilet. Boats are equipped with flotation devices as well as long ropes to help tired snorkelers back to the boat. Our expert snorkel guides are always available to help or just point out fantastic marine life, and the experienced captain and boat crew help to make our time on the boat comfortable and enjoyable.

manta rays feeding on the surface

When not snorkeling we will visit Rinca island, one of the last few islands in the world where Komodo dragons can be seen in the wild. Other species living here include deer, monkeys, buffalo and more and our walk is guided by a park ranger who can tell us lots of information about the island and wildlife living there,  Another day-trip takes us to Pandar Island, known for its stunning beaches and magnificent hill-top view point. Here, weather permitting we have a BBQ on the beach between hiking and snorkeling sessions.

Large school of fish in Komodo

The water temperature in this area is generally a little warmer than Alor, mostly around the 84F mark and above. Here we often snorkel in rash vests and leggings (for sun protection) but some people prefer wet suits as after several days of snorkeling we sometimes feel a little colder than expected.

The final morning of the tour involves a very early start, with a light breakfast on board the boat as we head back to Labuan Bajo to catch a 9.30 flight to Bali where the tour comes to an end.

So I have decided to give you a small overview of the trip, what you can expect, what a day in the life of the tour looks like… This post deals with the first part of the tour, in Alor. You can read about the second part of the tour in Komodo here.

The tour start with a night in Bali to allow everyone some time to arrive from international flights, freshen up and get a good nights rest.

Uluwatu temple and ocean cliff

The following morning, the group of 12 plus the guide travels together to Alor. This involves a short flight to Kupang, and after a wait, another short flight to Alor. This is a small island in the eastern part of Indonesia, where we are met by waiting cars and embark on an hours journey to the magnificent resort nestled into the tree-lined rocky shore. Here we settle in, enjoy lunch and a resort and snorkel briefing before getting our feet wet. the water temperature ranges from 74 – 84F, although closer to the resort it’s usually closer to 84F.

This resort has a beautiful house reef, accessible from the wooden jetty, which stretches a good distance along the shore. Here we can see stunning corals ranging from the surface down to 18m along a slope. Alive with tropical fish, baby reef sharks, eels, Mandarin fish, nudibranchs and more, this is a magnificent place to spend some time exploring.

Diamond spadefish below jetty in Alor

The resort’s three speed boats and excellent staff members will provide transport and surface support for the following days outings to snorkel sites further from the resort. We will fill our days here exploring some of the healthiest and most colorful reefs in the world. The boats have experienced captains, and are equipped with water, snacks, towels and flotation devices.

While snorkeling around this part of Indonesia we recommend wearing 3mm wetsuits, and possibly bringing a vest along too as water temperatures sometimes drop a little in the Southern sites. Full foot fins are perfect as we will be doing boat entries so no need to have booties necessarily. The resort has a camera set up room, complete

Alami Alor Resort

A couple of afternoons will be spent on land exploring some of the sites and learning about the local culture of the area.

We will spend 7 nights in our luxurious sea front bungalows, each with an open air ensuite bathroom, complete with towels shampoo and body wash and mosquito repellent. The bungalows have spacious bedrooms with closets, bedside tables, desk with access to plug points, wash baskets (where one can leave dirty clothes for the free laundry service), drinking water, as well as large private outdoor decks. Here we can enjoy private sun lounges, and magnificent sunsets.

Snorkeler floating over reef in Komodo National Park

While here our meals will be taken in the lounge/dinning area, where we will all sit at a long table and enjoy a variety of dishes prepared with fresh local ingredients, mostly showcasing the best of traditional Indonesian cuisine.  Breakfasts are made to order, lunches and dinners are served family style and completed with freshly baked treats for dessert.

Alami Alor Resort Bungalows